Court Sides with Plaintiff in Expert Testimony Prescription Medication Injury Case

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reached an instructive decision regarding conflicting expert testimony in prescription medication injury cases where causation is at issue.

In the case, Patteson v. Maloney, Dist. Court, Dist. Col. (2013), the plaintiff was suing her prior psychiatrist for prescribing her Seroquel, which was an antipsychotic drug, in order to treat her insomnia.

After taking the medication, the plaintiff developed tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and uncontrollable muscular tics. Her lawsuit thus claimed that the condition was caused by the Seroquel, on the basis of expert testimony. The defendant psychiatrist motioned to exclude all testimony linking Seroquel to tardive dyskinesia.

The defendant’s chief argument was that the plaintiff’s expert testimony is unreliable under the relevant standards set forth in the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the testimony should thus be excluded. He essentially sought to contend that his expert’s testimony, which conveniently shows no link between Seroquel and tardive dyskinesia, is scientifically more rigorous than that of the plaintiff’s experts.

In deciding the motion, the court briefly touched upon the various evidence linking Seroquel, a second-generation antipsychotic, to tardive dyskinesia. In doing so, it mentioned that Seroquel is approved for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar mania, as well as bipolar depression, bipolar maintenance, and major depressive disorder. Therefore, its use in the treatment of insomnia is “off label.” But, it cautioned, such use does not necessarily constitute negligence. Additionally, the use of these second-generation antipsychotics is associated with the potential risk of the risk of movement disorders, although the actual risk and causation is debated within the scientific community. Additionally, its FDA-approved label includes warnings for many of those side effects, including a warning concerning the risk of the disorder that the plaintiff ultimately developed.

Therefore, the defendant’s ultimate argument centered on the plaintiff’s expert testimony as failing to meet the standards for relevancy and reliability.

The specific standards for reliability of scientific evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence were established by the Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). The court then sets about a discussion of the various factors, and concludes that the relevant theory has been tested, peer reviewed, and sufficiently accepted by the medical community.

The court also notes that the Federal Rules encourage a liberal interpretation, and that once the minimum threshold of reliability is reached, it is up to the jury to decide, through hearing cross examination and other evidence at trial, which side has the more persuasive scientific evidence.

Therefore, the court denied the defendant’s motion to exclude the plaintiff’s expert testimony regarding Seroquel-Induced Tardive Dyskinesia.

This decision is in accordance with the purpose of the Federal Rules of Evidence, and prior case law interpreting them. The purpose of the rules is to ensure that the evidence presented to juries is in accordance with sound scientific principles, and is objectively measurable. This levels the playing field so that juries can focus on evaluating what they believe, rather than having to question the scientific methods themselves.

If you or a loved one has been injured or died as a result of a medication or pharmacy dispensing error, contact the experienced Maryland prescription error attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers. Whether you or a loved one were harmed by medication that was improperly prescribed, dispensed, or administered, or you suffered as a result of medication side effects, contact us today by calling us at (800) 654-1949 or through our website, in order to schedule your complimentary initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

District Court Denies Pharmacy’s Motion in Fertility Medication Error Case, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer, published November 27, 2013
Supreme Court Affirms FDA Approved Drug Labels Do Not Shield Brand Name Drug Makers from Liability, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, published November 20, 2013

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